Truth Against the World

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Myth of Progress Paradigm

The Myth of Progress Paradigm

Lately I have been reading, thinking, studying, and talking a lot about myth. The particular myths I have chosen to make a study of are those that pertain to Druidry, and more specifically Arthurian Legend/myth. I had a strong proclivity towards Arthurian Legend as a teenager and actually took a class on the Arthurian Legend Cycle in high school and read the likes of Sir Malory and his Le Morte D'Arthur. At the time I was just drawn to the imagery of knights in armor bashing each other stupid in the name of fair maidens, rescuing damsels in distress, slaying dragons, and questing after magical artifacts such as the grail. This was just the type of magical thinking I was drawn to as a young lad. Years later I find myself once again pulled to those knights and their adventures. Only now, they represent something like Jungian Archetypes and esoteric knowledge. I'm using this mythical system to achieve some sort of guidance about how to proceed in the world. That's the point behind myths. They give us something to anchor ourselves to as we proceed through the uncertain world as adults.

The overmind of our day that is transmitted to us via the programming of television has become something of a quasi-myth for our society. Albeit one that is one dimensional, dreary, unintelligible, purposeless, and devoid of all quality and meaning. The myth that our society has been following, pretty much since it's inception, is the myth of progress (as John Michael Greer has been pointing out frequently over the last months). The tactic employed to succeed in that myth has been one of hucksterism and hustling (as Morris Berman has recently pointed out in Why America Failed). Progress has meant pillaging the Earth for profit, exuding a constant and massive waste stream ending anywhere so long as it's not here, and caring for nothing but self. It has resulted in man using his brightest intellects to figure out how to screw up the biosphere as quickly as possible and all in the name of profit. This myth of progress has resulted in Corporations deciding how our society will define its ethics. It has resulted in gargantuan multinational corporations having not only the same rights as individual people, but having more rights. We now have a world that is frighteningly similar to Orwell's 1984.

While the "myth of progress" attempts to function as a myth, it doesn't quite do so. The point of myth has always been to provide a meaningful world for mankind. For whatever reason we need stories to motivate our action in this world. Not just any stories, but stories that imbue us with wisdom and more importantly enchantment. I say enchantment is more important because without it the world becomes flat and one dimensional. Without enchantment we are left only with Cartesian/Newtonian thinking which equates to nothing more than a mechanistic philosophy where everything is deterministic. There can be no place for meaningful ideas such as fate and destiny in that worldview. Science informs us that somehow this whole monkey show got started (we don't know how but never mind that godless man behind the curtain, it doesn't matter) and it's all been just cue balls on a pool table responding predictably according to physical laws ever since. We are supposed to have faith (although refusing to call it such or admit to anything resembling it) that the scientific method and the "scientist" will one day figure it out, and in the mean time provide us with the antidotes to all of our problems and just in the nick of time. Naturally, the massive, stinking, shit flingin' ape sitting on the couch in the living room of developed societies worldwide, and representing the mother of all of our problems, is what has been dubbed Peak Oil. This particular ape doesn't care what you think or want and is only concerned with the nature of finite resources. Peak Oil has become sort of a misnomer akin to "global warming" and should probably be changed to Peak Energy but that's beside the point. The point is that the myth of progress only works if it has cheap and abundant energy to force it's compliance.

Once this knowledge has been internalized as the fact that it is, it will begin exerting an undeniable psychological pressure in the being of the realizing individual. At some point after all of the nasty grief processing stages are endured we are individually left with a desire to act. But how are we to act when the myth that has informed our entire lives has been disclosed as a temporary glitch in the human experience on Earth? Here again John Michael Greer has been doing the majority of the leg work dealing with this exact thing. The most popular meme at the present time is that of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse that will result in us surviving, them perishing, and a new glorious reality to continue progressing in. It's an old and tired meme really, one that JMG has gone through great lengths to illustrate in his latest book Apocalypse Not. The Apocalypse meme has been infecting the human race since about 600 years before Jesus Christ and was largely a creation of Zarathustra. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, Zoaraster spoke, God died, and the apocalypse meme was born...or something like that. The reality of the situation is that, baring an unfortunate and random event like nuclear assured destruction, a random black hole meandering into our solar system, or some other freak event, what's probably going to happen is just more of the same austerity. Austerity for you to, eventually. The chances of you participating in a lower standard of living are better than good, unless you are already part of that 1% we've been hearing so much about lately.

Figuring out what to make of all of this has been what I have been contemplating and doing for the last several years. However it hasn't been until recently that I laid down the apocalypse meme myself. That action changed my mood slightly. Well, actually it was sort of like taking the last bit of hope I had tucked away in the conscious foreground of my mind, and shitting all over it. That resulted in an entire new round of what the fuck now? That also resulted in my entry into the small, but growing, class of people who are actually doing something about this mess. I've made the preparations to enter that class of people. I'm not going to participate in societies myth of progress anymore. It's pretty easy to say that, but what does it mean? For me it's somewhere between voluntary simplicity and voluntary poverty. It means that I will be putting my two week notice in at work, walking away from my house, and structuring my life in accordance with what I consider to be my authentic life, as Joseph Campell put it. I'm going to follow my bliss and give up on the rat race. I don't want to push a bar for a pellet of materialism. I want to live an intentional and therefore meaningful life. A life in which healing all things is the purpose of my existence rather than destroying them. If it was just my wife and I, it would be much easier, but we have a 19 month old toddler to care for. This has been the final remaining shackle to the matrix for me, until now.

The first place to start is to realize that you can't live your life based on what others think. By others I mean even those who are close to you. Since there is no myth uniting us we have been forced to write our own. This means that it's likely not to fit into the dominant myth of your family and friends. All of the people that I personally know are either in the Christian, apocalypse, or progress myth paradigms. Unfortunately Christianity embodies all three and I live in a Christian Nation. How else are you to explain the success of the republican party. Not that the democrats are any better because all they have done is gotten rid of the Christian aspect. So quitting my corporate sponsored career isn't exactly going to win me any votes with anybody that I know. In fact they will look down on me and call me irresponsible for doing such a thing with a toddler to care for. How could I possibly give up a perfectly good job/career complete with a steady pay check and medical insurance for my family? The devil is most certainly in the details.

Fortunately I have been able to procure shelter for my wife, son and I without having to pay for it. My wife has an aunt who is in her 60's and her husband has recently passed away. My wife's family is pretty much estranged from one another, as is much of our anit-cultures. At any rate this aunt has offered for us to live with her in her three bedroom house seeing as how she is pretty much just languishing in her loneliness. The thought of two adult family members, a toddler, and two dogs moving in with her brought her to tears of joy. I can hear that myth of progress in the background calling me an irresponsible mooch for what I'm about to do and I no longer give a shit what it, or it's followers think. My son will have more love than he can use by both his mother and father. 

 What if he get's sick? That is the 200,000 dollar question, at least a lot of times in this country. I work in healthcare actually, specifically EMS. I have a 2400 dollar deductible to go with my health care savings account (HSA) plan. How Orwellian is that? I'm saving on healthcare? I guess that goes along with the "raise" that I got this year that was a decrease in my hourly rate but 4 more scheduled hours per pay check. So at the end of the year it works out to a 3% raise since I worked 96 extra hours in a year. I work more for less and that's a raise. My employer added 600 dollars to my HSA and I got a 900 dollar one time deposit from them as well. Last year they contributed 900 dollars. I suppose next year it will be 300 if we follow the trend. To top this all of, the HSA is managed by Fidelity on Wall St, but don't worry it's managed responsibly. Until the next bubble that they had my healthcare invested in bursts and leaves me with nothing. Keep in mind I work for a hospital (the service I work for is owned by Tenet which is a for profit corporation). So if my son get's sick this year I should be okay, but next year I'll be screwed when all I get added to my account is 300 dollars and I have to come up with 2100 before insurance will so much as cover a fukitol pill which I would require if I were to stay employed, which brings me up to my next point.

I have reached what can only be termed "burn out," with my "career." I can no longer handle the constant siege of bullshit from both my employer and my former patients, now customers. I was called into the office the other day to defend myself against accusations that were brought by somebody who was not even on the scene. A patients family member no doubt. He wanted me fired for saying "I thought this was an emergency."  We were dispatched lights and sirens to a skilled healthcare facility for chest pains and upon arrival were told to wait while they finished giving the patient...I mean customer...a bath. That's when the words got shat out of my mouth. The only person that heard me was one of the nurses and apparently she informed a family member of my verbal turrets later that day and he called my supervisor to have me fired. Indeed, my director informed me that any complaint must be "investigated." He enlightened me about the time he had to spend many man hours investigating a complaint from a member of our illustrious society because an air horn scarred them at an intersection. On top of the managerial bull shit I have to contend with the typical 911 call. The medical taxi cab ride to the hospital for the sniffles or because the junkie ran out of smack and is in the beginning stages of withdrawal. I could go on like this for hundreds of pages, and actually I am. It's what the novel I've been working on is about. So in all reality, quitting my job is just going to enable me to leave on good terms so as not to burn any bridges...not that it matters. If I don't put in my notice it will just be a matter of time before I'm in the office again defending myself against some pissed off worshiper of progress.

So my plans are to craft a life of voluntary poverty for my family and I. No house payment and no car payments. My wife has etched out a pretty good niche selling crap she finds at thrift stores on ebay for a nice profit. You would not believe the stupid shit that people buy for entirely too much money. I don't feel bad about taking their credit card money, and nor does my wife. I suppose karmically it's got a cost, selling people shit they don't need online for a profit, but at least it's stuff being resold and not requiring further pillaging of the Earth's limited resources. She also makes money with her camera. She's good at both. I plan on working part time using my EMT credentials for a little while. I have to pay my truck off. Once that's done I'm going to grow food organically and sell it on the side of the road along with value added products such as hot sauces, ciders, pickles, kimchi, and all other manner of fermented and crafted food. This will be the fourth year of gardening organically for me, and I am getting a clean slate in the yard of the relative in-laws house that I'll be moving into. Maybe I'll be able to figure out a way to make money writing while I'm at it. I'll also be homeschooling my son. I have been offered an opportunity for reprieve from the madness and I'm going to take it. 

 I'm sorry to say that if you don't agree with it, I don't care. Because if you don't agree with it you are most certainly operating under the myth of progress paradigm, and I don't agree with you. It's nothing personal, I just don't want to rape and pillage the good for my own personal gain. I'm concerned with healing life and not destroying it. Maybe you will join me? I hear community is supposed to be a pretty intrinsic human need. Although I can't say it empirically since I've never known a real community before in my lifetime. Just fake, plastic, discounted, for profit communities. So you can have your madness. I told you that I would find my way out of this Orwellian hell, it was just a matter of time. I tried the fukitol pill and I couldn't shit, probably had to do with the fact that it was poison. So now I'm going all natural and I'm taking my family with me, and if you don't like it...well...I really don't care.


mwk said...

Good for you! I'm always happy to see someone have the courage to walk away from the death machine. It's not easy to do, culture has hardwired most of us to stay in the flock.

Myself, I'm not far behind you, with my exit date fast approaching this spring. The hardest part for me is that I have no home base to go to yet, as I'll be starting off on the road for awhile. I hope to find somewhere out there that resonates with me, where I can find a home and community to be a part of. If I don't find anywhere, at least I will have learned some permaculture skills and (hopefully) restored my sanity along the way.

Regarding home and community, it appears that you already have that part settled. Anyone who gives you a hard time for making the only choice with a future is living in past, they just don't know it yet.

As for health insurance, take care of yourself, eat right and exercise, and leave the rest to the fates. What else can you do? Be a slave for insurance that you only will most likely only need if you stay at the job that makes you ill? That's silly.

So again, good on you for taking your life back. SO HARD to do, but really, it's something that more and more people must do if there is to be any hope for us. Best of luck with the garden, the writing, and the new life. I wish you much success in all those endeavors.


Luciddreams said...

Thanks mwk. It's interesting that you say it takes courage, it would seem you are right. The myth of progress sees it differently. We are definitely conditioned to stay with the flock. I've never been good at doing that. When I left the nest at 18 I only strayed so far from what my family expected from me because of that conditioning. That's how this mess gets perpetuated. Good people not wanting to disappoint and let down those with whom they love. Staying in bondage because the world doesn't understand is a real tragedy. I wonder what the myth for that is? I'm sure there is one.

If I had woke up to this earlier I never would have purchased a house. I had the misfortune of purchasing in 2007 just before the bubble burst. We are lucky to have an acquantaince who wants to lease our house for a year and potentially buy it. I said we are walking away because we have decided that regardless of the outcome we are not going to be debt servants to the bank. If you stay in a place you don't want to be because of a house then isn't that sort of like being on parole from the banks?

It does take a lot of strength and courage to push back against your worlds dominant paradigm. I still suffer bouts of unease and worry about my decision, but I know it's the only ethical option available to me. So hear affirmations like yours helps. So thanks again.

William Hunter Duncan said...

Excellent choice. I support you 100%. It is a win-win for everybody involved, it seems, if your wife is good with it. Having the Aunt to watch your son, if you trust her, will be a nice relief for both of you.

Your move inspires me in this time, actually. I left my cozy corporate life in the fall of 2008. I'm still working out the consequences, but it was the best decision I made in my adult life. Blessings to you and your family.


Luciddreams said...

WHD, thanks man. The aunt is actually pretty heavily medicated on fukitol and god knows what else. She's devoutly christian in that southern baptist way. She doesn't go to church because she can't afford the 180 dollars a month she thinks she would have to pay to know what with the 10% tithe that god requires for your attendance and all.

We went to visit her yesterday just to tie up some loose ends with the move. One last chance to make sure we don't get any red flags about anything. I asked her what she did with herself all day and she said "sit in this chair and stare at my baby (dead husband..comin' up on a year since he passed) make a bowl of soup (from a can), do laundry, go to bingo once a week and the doctors office one a month and that's it...I just sit here." And she does, in the silence of her large three bedroom double wide trailer. I asked if she was tired because her her eyes were half open, "no, the medication just makes me weepy eyed." Amidst all of the frankenchemicals that she is on, and the deep seated depression, there is a human in there. I can tell that she is extremely happy that we are moving in although she can't really express it because of the chemicals.

However, we feel comfortable there and she's pretty much gonna let us do whatever we want with the kitchen and the other side of the house. On top of that I've got an acre to do with what I want. A new slate to practice some permaculture with. I'm filled with anticipation to go into my supervisors office on Tuesday and get this shit over with. It feels good to finally be doing something that coincides with my vision of the future. Just one more step in the right direction. Thanks for the support and it feels good to have inspired you. You frequently inspire me with your blogs.

Justin said...

Welcome to the dark side. I turned in my 2 week notice last spring. One thing that was true for me is that it took months for me to recover my mind and habits. At first, I wondered if I could or how long I could go without a job and what I would do to survive. As the daily habit and structure of a corporate job faded, I found myself with much clearer thinking, more energy and purpose. Now I have about 4 pretty good ideas I am pursuing, the challenge is having enough time and energy to pursue them. I have a feeling this is just the beginning.

Luciddreams said...

Well I put my notice in Monday and got bamboozled into working slightly more than I wanted to. I went on vacation for a little over two weeks today (just happened to coincide with me no longer being able to put up with their bull shit...wasn't planned). So I agreed to work the 3rd and 4th of Feb to finish out the pay period.

It's an odd feeling to say the least. I have a toddler which is why I have an odd feeling about it. Ultimately he is the most important thing and his needs come first. My struggle is reconciling that with my own needs in dealing with the fucked up world. I'm going to take several months to regroup and figure out what's next. The one thing I do know is that I've got a lot of work to do preparing my next vegetable garden's home at our new home. It sucks walking away from a four year project here, but at least the tenets are going to garden so it won't be wasted on weeds and grass.

I'm just trying to stay open to what's next.